In my circle of perfume friends there is a phrase I hear quite a bit, “Everything new is crap.” This could be more politely phrased as, “It is the worst of times.” It is a somewhat easy position to take because of the sheer amount of new perfume released. Most new fragrance is cynical focus group driven designs. Part of the reason I write about this ephemeral art is there is so much more than cynicism on display.
At this point in time we now are in a world where an independent perfumer can make a living. While there are still some pockets of less than forthright design in this area that is the minority. What is here are examples of single-minded aesthetic. If you need any evidence of that take a look at the twenty-two nominees for the 2017 Art and Olfaction Awards. These are fragrances which exemplify the vitality of the independent perfume sector. Underneath the list of finalists were over 200 submitted entries which show these are not the few they are the best of the many. If you were to spend the next few months wearing one of these each week you would see there is something happening here.
You might be thinking, “sure that’s independents of course that wasn’t what I meant”. Except some of the stalwarts of niche perfumery have stepped up with new releases that show the best of what these brands represent. Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle released a collaboration with designer Alber Elbaz and perfumer Dominique Ropion. Kilian Hennessy returned to some of the initial influences from the beginning of By Kilian with the new Black Phantom. Yann Vasnier produced the Bloomsbury collection for Jo Malone London. Geza Schoen’s fourth iteration of Molecule 04 and Escentric 04 continue a tradition which can simultaneously educate and thrill perfume lovers. All four of these are brands which defined the parameters of niche perfumery. They represent the longevity of this style of perfume as well as consumers’ acceptance of it.
So now you’re thinking “okay sure those are the experienced what I’m talking about are the new brands” Except there are new brands like Vilhelm Parfumerie and Nomenclature which refute this thought.
Now you’re thinking, “it’s the big brands the ones which only care about money over creativity” Except Hermes Eau des Merveilles Bleue and Cartier Baiser Fou aren’t support for that line of thinking.
I want to put up a thought which is different than what many like to propose, “This is the best of times”. On my desk, right now, I have an embarrassment of riches through all of these areas. I am having trouble remembering this many excellent new releases in front of me at the same time. I think across every area of fragrance there has been a slow refining of what each sector appeals to. Therefore I think the fragrance glass is more than half-full.